4 February 2024
As Israel destroys all of Gaza and the refugees huddle on the beach one might ask what is the end point?
Israel claims it wants to destroy Hamas, because it is a ‘terrorist organisation’
But what does this mean? A terrorist is someone who uses attacks on civilians to create fear in a population to achieve a political end. One could ask if that was what the Israeli occupation of the West Bank was doing already, failing to recognise land title, awarding Palestinian-occupied land to settlers and then sending the Army to defend the donated land for the ‘settlers’.
But leaving that aside, it is true that Hamas or groups associated with it used terrorist tactics on October 7th. Terrorist tactics are almost always used by the weaker side for the simple reason that they cannot hope to win a more conventional conflict.
But Hamas were the elected government of Gaza, elected largely because the Palestinian Authority was seen to be corrupted by land development money and a patsy organisation for the Israelis.
Palestinians are actually quite an nonreligious people, but saw Hamas as at least on their side.
The Israelis response was at first called ‘self defence’ but the idea that killing 28,000 mostly civilians and flattening a whole city is an appropriate retaliation for 1,200 deaths seems totally unreasonable.
It is also unreasonable to think that Hamas can be defeated militarily. It is not a military problem. Even if every last Hamas member were killed, their ideas will never be separated from the rest of the Gaza population. They have witnessed this unrestrained killing and destruction of their homes- it would be difficult to believe that in the long term they will not hate Israel.
So what is Israel’s objective? One could answer that it is the short-term survival of Netanyahu politically, but that is too simple. Israel has pretended it wanted a two-state solution, which means giving the West Bank to the Palestinians. Yet it has systematically placed 750,00 settlers on all the high points of the West Bank, supported them and armed them to the teeth. It has deliberately made a two state solution impossible as a policy for the last 70 years. As Netanyahu made good relations with Qatar, Dubai and Saudi Arabia, he started to speak about a ‘Regional Solution’ to the ‘Palestinian problem’. This sounded very much like asking his Arab neighbours to take Palestinians as refugees/migrants.
Now the Gazans will have nowhere to go. Their city is totally destroyed. Who would pay for its rebuild? Who will govern this wasteland?
It seems obvious that the Israelis want the Gazans to go into the Sinai desert in Egypt and then become a refugee problem for the UN and the whole world- i.e no longer a problem for Israel. It has worked with the Rohingyas in Myanmar.
Biden is talking about a two-state solution, and not having the Gazans go into Egypt. How realistic is this?
Fillipo Grandi was Commissioner -General of UNRWA (the UN Relief and Works Agency) and visited Australia as a guest of the UN Association of Australia in 2012. He was Italian, a consummate diplomat and in charge of relief for Palestinian refugees. I chaired a meeting at the Sydney Peace Foundation at Sydney Uni where he was the guest speaker. He was extremely careful not to criticise Israel to the extent that I as a debater and politician marvelled at his skill as he fielded loaded questions from each side of the debate.
According to Wikipedia UNRWA now has 30,000 staff and employs a lot of Palestinian refugees to help administer their aid programme. This is hardly surprising. There are few jobs for Palestinian refugees and the UN needs relatively cheap staff. Naturally they would use Palestinians to help their own people. It is therefore hardly surprising that with Hamas as the Gaza government, some UNRWA staff would be involved with them, and also unsurprising that some would be sympathetic to Hamas.
We might ask who discovered the connection between a dozen UNRWA workers and Hamas? Israeli security? Now we see the US, Australia, the UK and others stopping funding to UNRWA. The Gaza refugees are already starving. Who does this aid cessation benefit? Israel of course. The last hope of the Gaza refugees is taken away.
It seemed that the only two possibilities for a resolution of the Israeli/Palestine problem were either a two-state solution or a one state solution as advocated by Jeff Halper in his book ‘An Israeli in Palestine’ which was an Apartheid reconciliation process similar to what happened in South Africa. The chances of either of these solutions seems remote now, so the Israeli solution, of bombing and starving Palestinians out of Gaza and into Egypt initially and then anywhere else may be the only one. In the West Bank, with their land taken and the menial jobs now being done by imported Sri Lankans, Filipinos and Indonesians rather than Palestinians, there will be pressure for them to follow their Gaza compatriots into exile.
I hope that I am quite wrong about this, but I doubt it.
Here is a new word for irreconcilably taking someone’s home, Domicide, in an article in The Guardian.